So, goodbye 2017 KBO regular season. You were very good, sometimes amazing, and often frustrating. The final day might have been a bit anti-climatic but this was the closest pennant race in history and even up to 6pm, we didn’t know for sure who’d be playing SK Wyverns in the wild card game.
It started with the terribly sad passing of kt wizz infielder Andy Marte. And then there was some really bad press with regards to umpires and other scandals. But it was gripping, too.
Changes have been made already. As I’m sure you’re all aware, Lee Seung-yeop has retired and presumably his #36 will be too. LG have announced that 4-time Series winner Ryu Jong-il will replace Yang Sang-moon as their skipper. Yang has moved into the general manager’s office. Presumably more news over the coming days.
But here’s how the table sits after the 144 game season. We’ll have a further breakdown of how each did later on, but here’s our take on the 10 KBO clubs in around 50 words.
- KIA Tigers. Stormed into top spot early and eventually stayed there thanks to 20-game winning seasons for Yang Hyeon-jeong and Hector Noesi. Stumbled badly in late summer with epic bullpens failures. Roger Bernadina an improvement on Brett Pill but the surprise package must by RF Lee Myeong-gi.
- Doosan Bears. An astonishing run of form from All-Star saw the back-to-back champions jump from lowly fifth spot to within 2 games of the Tigers. With the possible exception of Jang Won-jun, none of their Fantastic 4 came close to reaching their 2016 heights. Injuries also played a part.
- Lotte Giants. The season’s biggest success story after a fairytale return for Lee Dae-ho. Brooks Raley was the best pitcher in the league from July, Andy Burns had an amazing turnaround in form and Josh Lindbloom was really impressive after returning. Stage set for Son A-Seop to showcase his talents on a bigger stage.
- NC Dinos. Where did it all go wrong? From being considered outright favourites, NC are not even guaranteed to make it past the wild card game. Early season reliance on the bullpen came home to haunt them as NC’s starters struggled to stay in games long enough.
- SK Wyverns. The home run team with the best batter in the league ended the season comfortably in 5th. Like most teams, problems exist in the bullpen and only the Wyverns could score 18 men in a game and still only win by a single run. But they have Choi Jeong. He’s a beast.
- LG Twins. Weird to see a team with solid pitchers not make the post-season but the KBO is regarded as a hitter’s league and LG have few. The talents of Henry Sosa, David Huff and quality left handed relief Jin Hae-soo gone to waste. Can’t keep relying on the aging Park Yong-taek.
- Nexen Heroes. A rare sight to see them out of the play-off picture. Despite boasting Andy van Hekken and Jake Brigham, Nexen’s relief gotten beaten around too often. A breakthrough season for Lee Jong-hu will soften the blow, plus the continued class of Kim Ha-seong. They’ll be back.
- Hanwha Eagles. A whole load of meh in Daejeon, but at least people have stopped considering them play-off dark-horses. There is talent there, especially with their clean up batters. But they seem to error their way to defeat too often. Will Wilim Rosario stay around? How long can they rely on Kim Tae-gyun? Answers on a postcard to Hanbat Stadium.
- Samsung Lions. They started terribly, sort of got some momentum going, and then just melted away. A season with little to shout about and now legendary slugger Lee Seung-yeop is gone. Darin Ruf ended the year with the most RBIS in the league. Start there and rebuild. They have good players.
- Kt wizz. A season bookended by great form glosses over so much crap in between. Season by season graphs show no improvement but it doesn’t feel that way. Ryan Feierabend with the league’s lowest ERA, Donn Roach ended impressively and Mel is a potential OF star. Yoon Suk-min can help fire them to progress next season.
The wild card game starts on Thursday at 2pm. SK Wyverns @ NC Dinos. Stay tuned to http://www.grandslamkbo.com for more news.